A Philadelphia man convicted of operating a telephone scam is distributing free copies of an eight-minute video he produced on how to avoid becoming a victim of the kinds of schemes he admits he once ran.
Edward Tunick, who faces seven to 10 years in prison for his January conviction on nine counts of mail fraud in federal court, was involved in telemarketing maintenance supplies for 12 years. By his own admission, companies run by Tunick under multiple names tallied gross receipts of more than $10 million in that period.
Tunick said he did not realize until after his conviction that what he was doing was against the law.
“It took a jury trial to make me realize what I did was criminal and illegal,” Tunick said.
Tunick and his employees would call businesses offering products — in his case, light bulbs and janitorial supplies.
The agents posed as longtime suppliers to the victim companies and often would offer gifts to employees to help persuade them to place an order. Tunick then would send the products to one address and the invoice, with marked-up prices, to another.
Agents would try to avoid the subject of price during their calls. The scam works because large companies often fail to question invoices below a certain dollar value, usually $500, Tunick said.
“Fraudulent telemarketers know that,” Tunick said. “So they keep sending bills for $200 or $300.”
Tunick's video is available for free from Let It Ride Productions, Philadelphia. The video also will be available for online viewing at his Web site, which will be in operation this month. The Web address was not available.
The video offers tips, such as advice to accounts-payable departments to cross-check invoices with quoted prices, to check telemarketers against vendor lists and to ask telemarketers to fax printed quotes before completing an order.
Tunick is paying for the production and distribution of the video out of his own pocket, although his lawyer, Patrick Egan, declined to disclose how much the effort will cost.
A sentencing hearing for Tunick is set for Sept. 24. There is no guarantee the judge will take Tunick's efforts to inform the public about fraud into account when he sets his penalty, Egan said.
“What I'm focused on is bringing awareness,” Tunick said. “If people see it on TV or on a Web site, they'll say, 'Gee, I get calls like this all the time.' “